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Essential Tools for Building Your Deck or Pergola

By September 28, 2015March 26th, 2020No Comments

Essential tools for building your deck or pergola
Photo courtesy of SiteVisibility
If all you have is a hammer, then it would be tempting to treat everything like a nail. Unfortunately, if all you have is a hammer then you will never be able to build your deck or pergola project. Constructing an outdoor extension requires accomplishing numerous tasks and each task requires a specific tool to accomplish.
Here are the essential tools you will need to build a deck or pergola.

Tape Measure

Tape measure
Photo courtesy of Jared and Corin
You may think that when you’ve seen one tape measure you’ve seen them all and that there’s not much to measuring anyway. But having the right tape measure for your requirements helps you get the job done much more easily. Here are some factors you need to consider when choosing a tape measure for your construction project.


There are certainly some benefits to procuring big tape measures. The larger case tends to be more durable and can more readily withstand being dropped, stepped on and kicked around. Thicker- and wider-bladed tape measures also stretch out farther before they bend, making them easier to work with when distances between points are significant.
On the other hand, long, thick tapes may be unwieldy and cumbersome when used in tight spots or workshop situations. For small DIY projects, long and thick tape measures may be totally unnecessary and even excessive.

Hook Type

The tape measure hook lets you hang the tape along the edge of the surface you need to measure and lets you square up the tape against the opposite wall. You may think this mechanism is the same for all tape measures. Or you may have never thought about it at all. Regardless, the hook may differ greatly among different devices.
Inexpensive tape measures will have a simple hook that latches on one end of the surface you are measuring and lets you read the measurement from above. More sophisticated models feature hooks that allow the user to anchor the tape from any direction, allowing the user to read measurements also from any direction, useful when working alone or in difficult spaces.


Tape measures fall under one of four classification types for accuracy. The instruments you buy at a DIY typically comprise the first class of tape measures. They have not been tested against a recognized standard and so are “unclassified”.
Class III is the lowest officially recognised level of accuracy.
Class II include the tapes manufactured by the well-known tool manufacturers such as Stanley, Draper and other big names.
Class IV are the most accurate tape measures available in the market.

Units of Measurement

Most measurements here in Australia are metric (centimetres, metres) and most tape measures in the market reflect this. However, in case you need to work with Imperial measurements (inches, feet, yards, etc.), you should easily be able to find tape measures that feature both systems.

Blade Material

Steel, stainless steel and fibreglass are the common materials used in manufacturing tape measures. Steel is durable and versatile and therefore provides great value, but different manufacturers use different thickness, width and protective coatings. Stainless steel is less common, less durable and pricier, but offers corrosion resistance. Fibreglass is flexible yet resistant to stretching, heat, water, and tearing.

Locking Mechanism

There are two types of locks used by measuring tapes. Conventional blade locks require you to engage a mechanism to lock the blade at the length it has been stretched out. Autolocks lock the blade to whatever length it is extended to.


Photo courtesy of Simon
Pencils are used to mark materials for measuring and cutting, and for aligning pieces together before fastening.

String Line

String line
Photo courtesy of Dvortygirl
One of the oldest and most basic hand tools is nothing more than a piece of string that helps create a straight line between two points.


Photo courtesy of Homespot HQ
Oh, you will need a hammer, after all. And you will use this mostly to drive nails through timber (or some other material). But there are many different types of hammers for specific users, and you need to choose the right one for your deck or pergola project. Here’s a quick list of some types of hammers.
Ball-peen hammer – Considered the best hammer for working with metal, it is used mainly for chisels and striking punches.
Sledgehammer – This heavy duty hammer is used to break concrete or to drive heavy spikes into the ground.
Claw hammer – This is the most popular hammer for woodworking. The hammer end bashes nails into wood, and the claw end can be used to pull nails out.
Hand drilling hammer – This short-handled hammer is used to drive masonry nails into concrete or brick.
Tack hammer – This is a small hammer used for delicate work, usually to secure fabrics.


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Clamps temporarily hold objects in place while you work on them. They come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes. Interestingly, no single style of clamp is versatile enough to satisfy all your DIY needs, hence woodworkers will tell you that there’s no such thing as owning too many clamps.
You can get started by procuring various sizes of C-Clamps; these will equip you for most of your DIY projects. Later you can think of expanding your clamp arsenal by adding pipe-clamp fixtures that provide immense pressure to handle large clamping requirements, and versatile Deep-Throat Bar Clamps that combine the power of pipe-clamp fixtures with the deep reach of C-Clamps.
Other types of clamps include Handscrew Clamps, One-Handed Bar Clamps, Spring Clamps, Ratchet-Action Bands and Miter Clamps.


Photo courtesy of David Goehrling
One of the simplest but absolutely essential tools for your DIY deck projects is the level. Most levels are used to do a horizontal level check although there are some models that even indicate the vertical level as well. Levels are indispensable for laying out foundations, testing the elevation of your project before pouring the foundation, leveling fencing posts, contouring drainage and estimating the fall of pipe installations.


Photo courtesy of Steenbergs
You’ll be doing a bit of digging, and a spade is just the tool for the job.

Drill and Bits

Drill and bits
Photo courtesy of Samuel M. Livingston
A good power drill is arguably the most useful tool you will have in your inventory. Some things to consider:

Cordless or Corded

Cordless drill power is indicated in volts. For most DIY requirements, a cordless drill in the 12 – 16 volt range should be enough. Note that the higher the voltage, the heavier the drill.
The power of corded drills, on the other hand, is measured in amps. The higher the amperage, the more powerful the drill. An 8 amp drill should be enough for most of your DIY needs.


Slow drill speeds are useful for driving screws, while the high speeds are for drilling holes. If you plan to use your drill mainly to drill holes, then all you need is a single speed drill. If you plan to drive screws as well, a drill with multiple speed options will serve you well.


Clutch is the drill’s reaction to resistance. It helps to prevent the screws from being driven too deep and being stripped. If you plan to use your drill to drive screws, figure on getting one with an adjustable clutch.


The chuck is where you insert the bit into the drill, and drills come with a variety of chuck sizes. The larger the chuck, the more suitable the drill is for heavy duty work. But for most DIY needs, a ⅜ inch chuck should be enough.

Forward/Reverse Switch

The reverse direction lets you use the drill to remove screws as well.


Photo courtesy of Ace Work Gear
If you will be working with timber, you will need a saw to cut it to the right size and shape for your DIY deck or pergola project.